They’re barely the size of a man’s hand, but Candy and her older brother Cane are growing stronger every day.
It is still questionable, however, if the littlest of the four-legged bundles of fur will make it through the Christmas season.
Candy is believed to be a Maltipoo-cross puppy that was unexpectedly born at the Patti Dale Animal Shelter in Aldergrove a few weeks back.
While Cane now weighs in at a whopping 720 grams and appears healthy and happy, the survival of his little sister, Candy, is still in limbo. She’s struggling at 230 grams.
She has a cleft palate and must be tube fed every two hours. Candy will require around the clock monitoring and care until she is four to six months old, said Jayne Nelson, executive director of the Langley Animal Protection Society.
While Candy is responding well to the feeding program, and soaking up all the snuggles, love, and attention she can garner, she is still in danger and any of a myriad of infections could potentially claim this puppy’s life, Nelson explained.
The pair of puppies were born in early December, to Beth – one of two stray dogs found running in the 1300 block of 256th Street back in October.
Beth came in, along with another dog believed to be her daughter (Nina). Beth was scruffy, dirty, and in need of grooming and some significant dental care, Nelson explained.
A once-over by the vets indicated Beth (believed to be about 10 years old – a senior citizen in dog years) had some joint issues but was in relatively good shape and a scar led caregivers to believe she had already been spayed.
She was set for a complete physical and shots on Dec. 4, to prepare her for dental surgery.
But that visit would have to be postponed. Two days ahead of the appointment, staff and volunteers arrived at the shelter in the morning, only to find something amiss in the kennel Beth shared with Nina.
Upon closer examination, they discovered two very tiny fur balls – dubbed Beth’s little Christmas miracles.
What a shock, said Nelson. “We had no idea she was pregnant… she never looked obviously pregnant.”
By the second day, it became apparent to the shelter staff that something was wrong with Candy. Born at only 138 grams, she had dropped to 122 grams and didn’t appear to be eating.
A rush visit to the vet still didn’t immediately reveal the problem. It wasn’t until they shone a flashlight into her mouth that they realized the dog had a cleft palate, Nelson said.
In some cases, these defect in both dogs and cats are so large and so severe that they can’t be repaired and the animals can’t be saved.
“In her case, it’s very small,” Nelson said.
She is optimistic that Candy can be saved but the puppy can’t nurse like normal. She requires constant supervision and the tube feeding until she’s 16 to 24 weeks old. At that time it’s hoped she’ll be strong enough to undergo surgery to repair the defect.
So, by day, she’s at the shelter but in a confined room with her mother and brother – except during feeding times.
Then at night, adoption counsellors and trainers Lneya Ishmail and Amy Parker share custody and constant care duties for Candy, providing her a portable house with heating pad and a Snuggle Momma (stuffed kitten with a heart beat) to lull her.
Reiterating just how adorable Candy – and likewise Cane – are, Nelson said “She gets handled a lot… They both do… She’s pretty cute.”
But only time will tell her fate.
“We’re cautiously optimistic,” Nelson said, “and getting more optimistic as each day goes by and with each pound she gains.”
She really is proving to be a “Christmas miracle,” Nelson said.
“We don’t normally have puppies born at the shelter,” she added.
Litter of Labs
In the meantime, eight chocolate Labrador Retrievers were born last Thursday, Dec. 14, at the Fraser Valley Institution in Abbotsford – into the LAPS Doghouse program.
LAPS partners with the women’s prison to offer boarding, training, grooming, and doggie daycare services at FVI. While most of the dogs are privately owned through a business model, the inmates also work with a few of the canine from the Patti Dale Animal Shelter, that need extra training and socialization, Nelson explained.
A chocolate lab, brought in by one of their regular clients, unexpectedly gave birth last week.
“This was a bit of a surprise, too,” Nelson elaborated.
The animal owner isn’t in a position to care for the puppies, so they have since been surrendered to the shelter. Mom will remain with the puppies until their weaned,
The entire clan is living with one of the women in custody, in her room, providing “pretty-much” round the clock companionship and supervision for the dogs.
All nine of the dogs will remain at the prison until the puppies can be weaned and moved to the Aldergrove shelter, and mom can be spayed and returned home.
Pitter Patter puppies
It’s not too often LAPS hears the pitter patter of little puppy feet in the shelter. Often, if puppies do come into the shelter – which is rare – they are put into a foster home for more one-on-one care until they’re old enough to be adopted.
But in the not too distant future, Nelson said, they should have a number of pups running around the Aldergrove facility, waiting to be adopted and become part of a forever families.
“No phone calls, please,” Nelson said. They’re not available yet. She recommends people watch their Facebook page for updates.
In the meantime, donations are being accepted to help offset the unexpected vet costs associated with the puppies’ care and specifically Candy’s surgery.
“Give the gift of a second chance,” she said. “We’d be very grateful.”